As of January 2013, the venerable Newsweek magazine will cease to exist in print form. Is print media dying? The answer remains to be seen, but it is clear that most of us turn to the Internet for information more often than we pick up something in print. Print advertising revenues are down by as much as 50% for some entities. The Internet allows us to customize what information we receive and to choose whether we read it, watch it or hear it; Americans have eagerly responded to these new channels.
For freelance writers, this is better news than it may appear. New online information sources are born every day; content writing for the web offers aspiring writers opportunities that outnumber the old respected print publications. Whether by blogging, writing for a third-party contractor or simply pitching to the vast array of online news sources, talented writers have more choices than ever.
How Do I Get Started?
For a professional appearance, you need a strong web presence of your own. A website with samples of your work displayed in a professional layout can quickly show your talent to potential clients. If possible, spring for a domain name and web hosting instead of using a free service; the relatively small investment creates a more polished look. Writing a personal blog is a great way to both practice your craft and keep your content fresh; blog topics can cover politics, your children's latest antics or offer tips on how to maintain a vehicle — the possibilities are endless. A contact form on your site makes it easy for clients to find you for web contract work. You may be hired for professional blogging, article series, educational information or marketing copy, either as a ghostwriter or under your own byline.
Whether you work through a contractor or on your own, it is crucial to publicize your work. Use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to promote your latest blogs. Connect with other writers by commenting on their blogs. Participate in online writer's forums, or submit your work to online writing contests. Networking online is no different than in a corporate space; making contacts can eventually lead to jobs.
A Google search for freelance web content employers produces thousands of results. Reputable third-party contractors can make this easier, often offering job boards and Internet space to display your work. The popular Elance.com allows you to set your own rates and bid on jobs, and showcases your work in its proprietary portfolio system. These perks do not come cheaply, however: Elance retains 8.75% of your fee for every job. DirectFreelance.com operates similarly by providing a jobs board and, for a $100 fee, an email address, space on the web and some basic sitebuilding tools to help you promote your work to their clients.
Monetizing a Blog
While many occupants of the blogosphere are hobbyists or blog as an adjunct to their day job, some bloggers are quite successful at earning a living. Clever use of advertising and targeted content can create a decent income; it is estimated that by the end of 2012, $746 million will have been generated from ad sales on blogs. Affiliate marketing programs, which reward writers for driving their readers to a marketplace, are commonly used. A writer links to a product for sale, such as on Amazon, and is paid for every click-through. Some affiliate programs also offer a percentage of sales, spurring bloggers to write product reviews. Google's Adsense program similarly encourages these sponsored posts. Writing for a niche audience allows you to tailor your ads to products that appeal to that readership. If you are willing to give up a chunk of your commissions, third-party ad contractors like Viglink and Skimlinks will do the set-up work for you.
Noted blogger Heather Armstrong, owner of Dooce.com, was one of the first to successfully use affiliate marketing. Armstrong began by writing hysterically funny stories about her life, chronicling the thoughts of a young woman making the transition to wife and motherhood. By tapping into an audience niche that had largely been ignored, Dooce's relatable writing attracted a large following and the website's popularity exploded. Within a few years, Armstrong was bringing in so much ad revenue that her husband quit his job; the Dooce © empire was born. Press, public appearances and 3 published books added to Dooce's popularity; Armstrong currently has over 1.5M Twitter followers. Dooce's newest creation is its own Community, a miniature social media platform just for Dooce fans.
Augment Your Writing Career
Using social media goes hand in hand with networking, and it can also help a budding author flourish when used properly. Many successful authors today use social media tools to promote their published works and build a community with their readership. One such author, Melissa Wiley, has grown her career by wisely tapping into social media as it evolved. Always an early adopter of technology, the children's book author wrote her first historical fiction series in the early â90s, when the Internet was just becoming a household word. As her career grew, so did her online presence.
Wiley's blog Here in the Bonny Glen was launched as a means to connect with far-flung relatives. As her readership has grown, Bonny Glen transformed into a space where Wiley promotes her books, announces book signings and appearances, champions homeschooling, provides book reviews and creates widely-shared book lists for young readers of every age. What began as a writer's diary became a channel for Wiley to share her love of literature with her young fans. Her creative use of the blog platform led to speaking engagements, an enormous Twitter following, attention from new publishers and a position as a paid columnist at GeekMom, a division of Wired.com. Never one to rest on her laurels, Wiley's latest foray into online media is Into the Thicklebit, a webcomic co-produced with her graphic-novelist husband.
The following resources may be helpful to you as you navigate the possibilities the web has to offer for skilled writers.
- Writer's Network: This free creative writing community is a space for writers to get constructive feedback on their work and network with other writers.
- 30 Best Resources for Beginning Freelance Writers: This article offers numerous useful tips for honing your craft and making the contacts you need. Links to numerous writing groups and professional associations are included.
- All Freelance Writing: This resources offers tips on business advice and freelance marketing, as well as writer's forums, a job board and free resources for writers.